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The Inclusion of an Equine Facilitated Educational Programme into the Educational Curriculum of Young People affected by Socio Economic Disadvantage Presenting with Social, Emotional and/or Behavioural Difficulties Research Project

This Research Project was conducted by Siofra Hayes Moriarty.

There is considerable evidence highlighting the importance of social and emotional well-being for young people affected by socio economic disadvantage (Keating & Lamb, 2004). The importance of early interventions in this area has been extensively reported (Aber et al., 2002; Spencer et al., 2002).  O’Brien (2004) argues that social and emotional well-being can be as important – if not more important than academic qualifications for young people transitioning into and succeeding into adult life.  This small scale mixed methods study examined the impact of an Equine Facilitated Educational Programme (EFEP) on the social and emotional well-being of a group of young people (n=9; male =1; female = 8) between 9–11 years of affected by socio economic disadvantage.


EFEP sessions were delivered between September and December for 3 hours each day for 4 groups of young people (n=12 sessions per group).  A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare teacher’s responses to Goodman’s Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ) total and total subscales between T1 and T2.  Qualitative data were gathered from focused discussion groups with the teachers and young people and analysed using thematic analysis.  Both data sets were integrated and interpreted.


Whilst there was a decrease in the mean of the SDQ total and sub-scale scores for Conduct Problems, Emotional Symptoms, Hyperactivity and Peer Relationship Problems, and an increase in Prosocial Behaviours mean scores, these results were not significant.  Qualitative findings from teachers identified improvements in self-confidence, self-esteem, behaviour, awareness and expression of emotions and relationships with teachers and peers. The young people’s self-reports suggest participation in the EFEP is associated with feelings of being reenergised, teamwork and EFEP representing a favourite part of the week. Superordinate themes included sense of calm, improved sense of responsibility, empathy, focus and concentration.


Study findings suggest participation in the EFEP may be associated with a number of social and emotional competencies and as such may play an important role in equipping young people affected by socio-economic disadvantage with an important set of life skills.  Longitudinal comparative studies will further help the understanding of equine facilitated programmes.


About the Researcher

Siofra Hayes Moriarty, Equine Specialist & Facilitator for the Festina Lente Equine Assisted Learning Service

Siofra Hayes Moriarty has worked with Festina Lente since 2011. Prior to this, she worked for three years in residential services for young people at risk. A graduate of Dublin Institute Technology, BA in Social Care and a lifetime of working with horses guided her to take up the role of Equine Specialist in the Equine Assisted Learning Service at Festina Lente.

Siofra also works with the Equine Facilitated Education Programme for young people in the Bray area attending in DEIS schools. Having successfully completed the Festina Lente Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator Course, Siofra now manages the EAL Service.

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